International Legal Protection of Cultural Heritage: An Efficient Mechanism?

Liselotte Marnef
De kroniek van de (aangekondigde) vernietiging van cultureel erfgoed Een scriptie over de beschermingsmechanismen voor cultureel erfgoed binnen internationaal recht Naast de gruwelijke beelden van onthoofdingen door Islamitische Staat (IS), gingen ook hun Youtubefilmpjes van de vernietiging van eeuwenoude beelden in musea in het Midden-Oosten recent viraal. De vernietigingswoede in deze video's is ontembaar. Meer recente berichtgeving leverde hiervan helaas nog meer bewijs: IS' inname van Palmyra in Syrië deed de wereld naar adem happen.

International Legal Protection of Cultural Heritage: An Efficient Mechanism?

De kroniek van de (aangekondigde) vernietiging van cultureel erfgoed

Een scriptie over de beschermingsmechanismen voor cultureel erfgoed binnen internationaal recht

Naast de gruwelijke beelden van onthoofdingen door Islamitische Staat (IS), gingen ook hun Youtubefilmpjes van de vernietiging van eeuwenoude beelden in musea in het Midden-Oosten recent viraal. De vernietigingswoede in deze video's is ontembaar. Meer recente berichtgeving leverde hiervan helaas nog meer bewijs: IS' inname van Palmyra in Syrië deed de wereld naar adem happen. Het slopen van het werelderfgoed in deze eeuwenoude stad werd door Unesco veroordeeld en beschouwd als een 'nieuwe oorlogsmisdaad'.

De scriptie "International Legal Protection of Cultural Heritage: An Efficient Mechanism?" onderzoekt de vraag of er een effectief beschermingsmechanisme bestaat in het internationaal recht dat het culturele erfgoed in conflictsituaties, zoals ondermeer in het Midden-Oosten, beschermt.

De recente en veelvuldige berichtgeving rond het vernietigen van cultureel erfgoed doet vermoeden dat deze oorlogstechniek van hedendaagse makelij is. Niets is echter minder waar. Iconoclasme werd bijvoorbeeld al aangewend door Romeinse veldheren ten nadele van de christenen. De zestiende-eeuwse Beeldenstorm woedde in onze contreien ten gevolge van iconoclasme en ook de universiteitsbibliotheek in Leuven werd er het slachtoffer van in 1914.

Het vernietigen van beelden, tempels, geschriften en andere cultuurgoederen die toebehoren aan een bepaald volk gaat veel verder dan het koelbloedige neerslaan van eeuwenoude waardevolle marmeren beelden van goden, koningen en andere menselijke gedaanten. Het gaat immers om het (om)verwerpen van het materiële bewijs van de geschiedenis, de kunst en de kunde van het geviseerde volk met zijn specifieke godsdienst. Door het onthoofden van standbeelden, tracht de vijand dit volk als gemeenschap een kopje kleiner te maken en zijn cultuur en historie uit te roeien, als was het niet waard ooit bestaan te hebben.

Bij het benaderen van deze problematiek bleek het uniform definiëren van 'cultureel erfgoed' en 'cultureel eigendom' al snel gecontesteerd. Beide concepten worden in de literatuur veelvuldig door elkaar gebruikt, en ook in internationale conventies klinken de definities niet unisono. Hieruit blijkt meteen een eerste zwakte in het internationale beschermingsmechanisme: er is geen algemene eensgezindheid over welke cultuurobjecten in conflictsituaties bescherming kunnen genieten.  (Voor het vervolg van dit artikel houden we de terminologie 'cultureel erfgoed' aan.)

Het beschermingsmechanisme van cultureel erfgoed in internationaal recht kan men zich goed voorstellen als een kruk met twee poten, waarbij het op dit moment wachten is tot een derde poot (hopelijk) wordt bijgezet. 

In de eerste plaats steunt het beschermingssysteem van cultureel erfgoed op de fysieke bescherming en de preventieve maatregelen die voorzien moeten worden. Deze plichten werden vastgelegd in het Haagse Verdrag voor de bescherming van Cultureel Erfgoed in conflictsituaties (1954) en het Werelderfgoedverdrag (1972). Bij de ondertekening van deze verdragen verbonden de lidstaten zich ertoe deze plichten in acht te nemen. Helaas verklaarden een aantal landen zich wel akkoord, maar volgde er nog geen ratificatie van deze verdragen. Zo is het bijvoorbeeld nog steeds wachten op de ratificatie van het Haagse Verdrag van 1954 door Groot-Brittannië. Sinds het afsluiten van deze verdragen werd de plicht om respect te tonen voor cultureel erfgoed in conflictsituaties beschouwd als een gewoonterechtelijke plicht die geldt voor de hele internationale gemeenschap. Los van ratificatie of ondertekening van bovenstaande verdragen dient er dus alom en door iedereen respect te worden getoond voor het culturele erfgoed. Zo dus ook in Syrië.

Een bijkomende zwakte van het systeem zit in het feit dat de bestaande conventies 'non-self-executing' conventies zijn. Dit betekent dat ondertekenaars in navolging van de conventie, nationale regels moeten opmaken opdat de conventie volledige geldingskracht kent. Het spreekt voor zich dat dergelijke conventies intrinsiek zwakker zijn dan hun self-executing tegenhangers die rechtstreeks afdwingbare regels bevatten, zonder bijkomende nationale legislatieve voorwaarden.

En vroeg u zich ooit eerder af waarom historisch waardevolle gebouwen, monumenten en kerken in Vlaanderen en ver erbuiten het typische blauwwitte schildje bevatten (zie foto)? Dit embleem is één van de preventieve maatregelen zoals uitgewerkt in de Haagse Conventie van 1954. Het duidt het culturele erfgoed aan dat in geval van conflict bescherming geniet tegen vernietiging. Ik hoor u kritisch denken: "wat zou zo'n minuscuul bordje helpen in geval van oorlog en conflict?!" Luchtaanvallen en meer geavanceerde oorlogstechnieken in acht genomen, blijkt dit een zeer terechte opmerking. Niettemin toonde bewijs in de Strugar-Zaak (ICTY, Prosecutor v. Pavle Strugar, 31 januari 2005) aan dat de blauwwitte emblemen aangebracht in het oude stadgedeelde van Dubrovnik, zichtbaar waren voor de vijandige troepen en deze bijgevolg het cultureel erfgoed hadden moeten respecteren. Deze zaak is een van de weinige waarin een veroordeling volgde voor het vernietigen van cultureel erfgoed.

In de tweede plaats bestaat het internationaal rechtelijk beschermingssysteem voor cultureel erfgoed uit het vaststellen van strafrechtelijke maatregelen en de criminele verantwoordelijkheid. Het is zeer te betreuren dat alleen de Haagse Conventie (1954) strafrechtelijke maatregelen bevat. Het voorstel van de Sovjet-Unie bij het opstellen van deze Conventie in Den Haag, om een lijst specifieke misdrijven tegen cultureel erfgoed op te nemen, kon vooral op tegenkanting van de Verenigde Staten rekenen. Als tussenoplossing werd artikel 28 van de Haagse Conventie de lege doos die het vandaag nog steeds is.

De derde, voorlopig nog ontbrekende poot waarop het beschermingssysteem van cultureel erfgoed zou moeten steunen is deze die bestaat uit het grondig afdwingen van de bestaande regelgeving. Een gespecialiseerd internationaal tribunaal voor het berechten van deze specifieke misdrijven ontbreekt. Bijgevolg geven de huidige supranationale hoven een eigen interpretatie aan de erfgoedverdragen, iets wat de eenduidigheid en de kracht van het berechten van misdrijven tegen cultureel erfgoed niet ten goede komt.

De driepikkel die cultureel erfgoed internationaalrechtelijk moet beschermen, met als eerste poot de fysieke bescherming en de preventieve maatregelen, als tweede poot de strafrechtelijke maatregelen en de criminele verantwoordelijkheid, valt bij gebrek aan een derde poot voorlopig dus nog omver.

 

Bibliografie

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VII. Miscellaneous

 

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